Willemse out to make pivot his

Storm­ers young­ster has shown he’s got the mak­ings of a fan­tas­tic player

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - WYNONA LOUW

IMAG­INE the pres­sure Damian Willemse must have been un­der when he made his run-on de­but for the Storm­ers against the Chee­tahs last week.

Get­ting your first start has to be daunt­ing re­gard­less of your age. Add the fact that it’s in a po­si­tion like fly­half and the fact that you have built up a rep­u­ta­tion as a ju­nior star (so all eyes will ob­vi­ously be on you) in there, and the pres­sure lev­els rise times 10.

But when the 19-year-old Willemse stepped onto the field at the Free State Sta­dium at the week­end, it didn’t take him long to prove that he’s more than just one of those hyped-up ju­niors that never re­ally make the cut in se­nior rugby.

Against the Chee­tahs, Willemse didn’t do much wrong.

He pro­duced a com­posed per­for­mance and he scored a try af­ter pro­duc­ing a piece of in­di­vid­ual at­tack­ing bril­liance and topped that off with su­perb sup­port play to take a re­turn pass from Ryn­hardt El­stadt to fin­ish off the move.

He also had a hand in Ch­es­lin Kolbe’s first try, his line-kick­ing was good (some­times he got good dis­tance with only a slight an­gle to work with) and his game-man­age­ment couldn’t be faulted.

Af­ter the game, Storm­ers coach Rob­bie Fleck was pleased with Willemse’s ef­forts: “He’s a young kid with lots of tal­ent and there were some bril­liant touches from him. There were one or two mis­takes, but that’s to be ex­pected from him be­cause he’s young. For him to per­form at this level was a big ask away from home and he’s de­liv­ered.”

And how could Fleck not be pleased with that? In fact, Fleck wasn’t the only one on the coach­ing team who had words of praise for Willemse.

Ear­lier this week, Storm­ers skills coach Paul Feeney said: “I am ex­pect­ing him (Willemse) to play bet­ter again this week. Ev­ery minute he gets at this level, the bet­ter he is go­ing to get over the next while.”

Fleck men­tioned the “bril­liant touches” Willemse contributed in their 40-34 win over the Chee­tahs, so you’d ex­pect many pun­dits can’t wait to see what touches he adds this week.

It’s those bril­liant touches that he adds so ef­fort­lessly that are go­ing to add an el­e­ment of thrill to the Storm­ers’ at­tack, should Willemse be part of the play-off ac­tion.

And if he puts in an­other solid per­for­mance at New­lands against the Sun­wolves this week­end, that might very well be the case, as Fleck al­luded to in the build-up to the fix­ture against the Chee­tahs.

It’s his abil­ity to keep op­po­si­tion de­fences guess­ing that makes him such a threat and, like he showed at the week­end, he’s not just your go-to man when it comes to spark­ing an at­tack – his dis­tri­bu­tion skills were tops and his out-of-hand kick­ing re­lieved some good pres­sure off the Storm­ers at cru­cial stages last Satur­day.

So, with Robert du Preez and Jean-Luc du Plessis out with in­juries, Willemse has an­other chance to show that he can boost the Storm­ers, at least for the play-offs.

And af­ter see­ing his per­for­mances in his de­but (and what he could do in less than five min­utes) against the Kings in Port El­iz­a­beth and in his start­ing per­for­mance against the Chee­tahs, no doubt ev­ery­one can’t wait to see what he dishes up as his time in the Storm­ers jer­sey grows. Like Feeney said – ev­ery minute he gets at this level he will get bet­ter.

And if this is what he can do af­ter only 80-odd min­utes, well, see­ing him af­ter a cou­ple more games will be re­ally some­thing. THE NEW COOL: Damian Willemse of the Storm­ers could be a rare tal­ent, if he is af­forded play­ing time in the Cape to de­velop his skills.

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